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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

Davenport hotel closures leave hundreds without jobs; Northern Quest shuts down after visitor tests positive for COVID-19

UPDATED: Mon., March 16, 2020

The Davenport Grand Hotel on Spokane Falls Boulevard in downtown Spokane is the only property of hotelier Walt Worthy’s five hotels that isn’t closed because of a lack of business caused by the coronavirus outbreak. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Davenport Grand Hotel on Spokane Falls Boulevard in downtown Spokane is the only property of hotelier Walt Worthy’s five hotels that isn’t closed because of a lack of business caused by the coronavirus outbreak. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Thomas Clouse and Chad Sokol The Spokesman-Review

Hotelier Walt Worthy announced Monday he has closed four of five hotels in Spokane because of a lack of business and will be redirecting all of his patrons to stay in The Davenport Grand Hotel.

The closures mean hundreds of workers will be without jobs.

Meanwhile, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians announced it was closing multiple facilities, including Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, after learning that a recent visitor has tested positive for COVID-19.

The closures will last for at least two weeks. The Kalispel Tribe has offered to continue paying employees during that time. At least eight other tribes in Washington had closed casinos as of Monday evening.

Hotel demand plummets

Worthy said at peak times, The Historic Davenport, The Davenport Tower, The Davenport Grand, The Davenport Lusso and The Centennial by Davenport Hotels, employ between 1,200 and 1,500 people. That number is now down to about 100.

With Spokane set to be a host site for the men’s NCAA Tournament games Thursday through Saturday, Worthy said all of his hotels, which have a combined occupancy of 1,875, had been reserved before the event was abruptly canceled last week.

“We were overbooked for this weekend,” Worthy said. “Now we are closing four of five hotels. We went through 9/11 and 2008. We’ll get through this, too.”

Some hotel employees may eventually return to work, but it’s unclear how long that might take.

“We have had some temporary layoffs as you might have guessed,” Worthy said. “That’s subject to change. If we wind up with more business, we’ll call some people back.”

But the initial layoffs this week are much greater than the minor job losses during the Great Recession, he said.

“We had 12 rooms last night at the Centennial that weren’t airlines crews. That’s 12 rooms for the general public out of 411 rooms,” he said. “It just made a lot more sense to consolidate everything at the Grand.”

Up until last week, Worthy’s five hotels had reported occupancy rates were up 15% this year over 2019. But virtually every banquet and convention has been canceled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is unprecedented,” Worthy said. “I’m not the only one. It’s happening in Seattle, too.”

As for the laid-off employees, Worthy said he has agreed to pay for their health insurance through April 1.

“We are going to call everybody back as soon as we can,” he said. “We just don’t have any business right now.”

In a company statement, Davenport Hotels spokesman Matt Jensen said the company has closed all of its restaurants, lounges, the spa, retail outlets, fitness centers and pools, except those at The Davenport Grand, based on Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamation Sunday.

“We are following the guidelines and joining the efforts of local and state governments to keep these entities closed for two weeks, or until further notice,” the statement said. “We are working with local officials to have precautions and limitations in place in order to protect both our hotel guests and associates.”

Tribe closes Northern Quest

In a statement Monday, the Kalispel Tribe said Northern Quest will remain closed for at least two weeks, as will the Kalispel Casino in Pend Oreille County, the Kalispel Golf and Country Club north of Spokane, and the Fatburger restaurant on Francis Avenue.

The tribe said it made that decision after learning Monday that a person who visited Northern Quest on March 9 has tested positive for COVID-19.

“They contacted us when they received positive test results from their physician today,” tribe spokeswoman Julie Holland said in an email.

“We are working with the CDC and our local health district to investigate this case and take their recommendations for continuing to protect the health of our guests and team members,” the tribe said.

Kalispel Market gas stations and convenience stores will remain open for business, as will the Camas Health Clinic in Usk and Kalispel Linen Services, which handles laundry for Providence Health & Services in Eastern Washington.

The tribe said its furloughed employees will continue receiving paychecks.

“While our hope was to remain open for business to continue serving our guests and allowing our team members to earn a living, our circumstances have now changed,” the tribe said. “We believe a temporary closure is the right thing to do. We all owe it to our community to protect the healthcare system and its resources as we navigate this complex and rapidly changing situation.”

As sovereign nations, Native American tribes aren’t bound by the governor’s order to shutter bars and halt restaurant table service. They have begun to do so anyway.

Mike Tedesco, executive director of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, said the Spokane Tribe Casino in Airway Heights remained open Monday, though some services had been eliminated or curtailed.

Visitors could still buy drinks on the gambling floor, but they could not sit at the bar and restaurant service had ceased, Tedesco said. Additionally, those using slot machines were required to sit with at least one empty machine between them, he said. Casino workers had ramped up sanitation efforts.

Closure remains a possibility. Tedesco said tribal leaders were monitoring the situation and making decisions “really on an hour-to-hour basis.”

“Things are evolving rapidly,” he said.

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